Friday, July 20, 2007

Factory Work: Warhol, Wyeth, Basquiat

Meg and I are vacationing in Maine, visiting her parents, my brother Mark, and my OMET cadre-mate Brad and his wife Hillary. Today Meg and I went to Rockport, Maine, where the Farnsworth Museum is located. We try to make it to this museum each time we come to Camden to visit Meg's parents. The museum features work my N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth and is quite amazing. This time they had a great exhibit, "Factory Work: Warhol, Wyeth, Basquiat." Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat are two of my favorite 20th century artists, so this exhibit was a real treat. I managed, in the 1990s, to catch an exhibit of Basquiat's work at the Whitney Museum, in NYC. Unfortunately, his life was cut short, at the age of 27, so there is only a small body of his work out there.

The exhibit took up both exhibition spaces at the Wyeth Center, a detached former church. The lower floor contained two cases that had contents of Warhol's "Time Capsules." Evidently, periodically, Warhol and his assistants would sweep everything off his desk and into a box that they would seal. While a few of these boxes have been opened, many remain sealed. The contents of these capsules, one from the 1970s, the other from the 1980s, included magazines, clipping, photographs, and other ephemera. There was also a case with a step-by-step explanation of how Warhol and his assistants would create his "piss paintings." A canvas would be covered in a copper-based paint. Warhol and/or his assistants would then urinate on the canvas and the urine would react with the copper paint to create oxidization. Upstairs there was a fantastic silk-screened "piss painting" portrait of Basquiat. The canvas had been covered in the copper paint, urine was applied, then Basquiat was silk-screened onto the canvas.

The other works that really stood out to me were a series of pencil drawings Warhol had done, based on Polaroids he took, of Wyeth. The spareness of the line was amazing, and Warhol's work captured the type of effect I had attempted in a piece of my own.

As Meg noted, the juxtoposition of these three artists was a fresh and interesting way to consider these artists, and the influence Wyeth and Warhol had on one another's style and art was amazingly presented.

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